The grande dame of Dairen’s hospitality scene was the Yamato Hotel 大和旅館, built in 1914 by the occupying Japanese on Nicholas Square. It was the equivalent of the Astor House Hotel in Shanghai, and the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, hosting the likes of Royalty and celebrities who passed through Dairen en route to Japan on their round-the-world tours.
The Yamato Hotel chain was owned by the Southern Manchuria Railway Company, which built seven Yamato Hotels in the Japanese colony of Manchukuo, today’s Northeast China. Almost all of them still stand today – most notably in the cities of Shenyang (Mukden), Harbin, and Changchun (Hsinking). But arguably the famous of them all was the Dairen Yamato.
What a pity then, that of all the Grand Hotels on this second leg of the Grand Tour, the Yamato Hotel remains in disrepair and in urgent need of being refurbished. Not that it was the subject of anti-Imperialism. After the Japanese were vanquished, the hotel was renamed the Dalian Hotel 大连宾馆 and continued to play host to leaders of the Communist Party – the former Bo Xilai used to entertain and house his guests here.
But it seems as though history stopped for the hotel in the 1960s, and hasn’t restarted since. Outside, the hotel is as majestic as ever before, if a little Gothic; particularly on a rainy day, when it looks positively like an edifice in Gotham city.
Even one steps into the lobby, the sense of grandeur and history remains. But once past these public areas, everything falls apart. The corridors are shabby and in dire need of cleaning. The rooms are painfully inadequate for the modern traveller, lacking even a safe for valuables, and with furniture that is straight out of the 60s.
I had planned to accommodate myself here for the duration of my stay. But one look at the room I was in, and I decided to check out immediately, forfeiting one night’s board; which was more expensive than the 4-star international business hotel chain I checked into later on.
Help, please, Raffles Hotels & Resorts Group, or Starwood Luxury Collection. Help save the Yamato Hotel!